All About Pit Bulls

Here at MCAS, we see a lot of pit bulls. So we thought it would be helpful to offer some information about the breed and to separate the myths from the facts.

Facts:

  1. Pit bulls are not actually a recognized breed, but usually a mix of one or more of the following; American Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American bulldog or a number of other medium-sized dogs with short coats. More than 20 breeds are now associated with dogs labeled as pit bulls.
  2. Contrary to urban myth, no breed of dog has “locking jaws”.
  3. Just like other dog breeds, pit bulls are individuals. Each dog has a unique personality and what is true for one pit bull may not be true for all pit bulls. Like many dogs, most pit bulls are intelligent, sensitive, affectionate and eager to please their human companions. A simple YouTube search will yield dozens of videos of loving pit bulls interacting beautifully with other animals and children.
  4. Like all dog breeds, how pit bulls interact with other dogs or cats can vary greatly. Some pit bulls are not only very dog-friendly, but cat-friendly as well. At the other extreme, some can be aggressive towards other dogs, cats or small mammals. It is important for owners to be aware of their dog’s individual temperament and to act accordingly. Early socialization and positive training techniques can have a strong favorable impact.
  5. When bringing home a new dog of any breed, it should not be left unsupervised with other pets. MCAS staff can advise you about how to responsibly integrate a new dog into your household.
  6. Pit bulls tend to be energetic, playful and determined. They may also enjoy couch potato time with you. They make wonderful companions for active, responsible pet owners. Like other intelligent, active breeds, they do best with consistent, positive reinforcement training and can learn a variety of tricks. He or she will also appreciate some chew toys!
  7. While it’s true that pit bull breeds were originally bred for fighting other dogs, they were also specifically bred to be  gentle and manageable for their human handlers. Historically, pit bulls that were not part of fighting rings were actually considered the perfect family pet and were once termed “nanny dogs” because of their gentle and devoted nature.
  8. All dogs that come into MCAS are behavior tested. MCAS’s role is to protect both people and pets. Therefore, dogs of any breed that pose a threat to the safety of people or other pets are not available for adoption.
  9. It is well-known in the animal care community that there exists a media bias against pit bulls. There is a tendency for media outlets to promote anti-pit bull hysteria by over-reporting incidents that involve pit bulls and under-reporting incidents involving dog breeds that are perceived to be non-threatening. TV news shows tend to report news that is dramatic and a cocker spaniel attack is not considered dramatic. Therefore, this is not a story a likely to be run. However, we can attest to the fact that dogs of all breeds (including cocker spaniels) are occasionally involved in bite incidents.

    The result of this reporting style is that people only hear negative information about pit bulls. Without providing contextual information, the public may not realize that there may be hundreds or thousands of friendly pit bull family dogs in the community. (http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/resources/audience-interest) Unfortunately, the bad press that pit bulls receive serves to further encourage irresponsible owners to obtain pit bulls. The cycle continues when irresponsible owners promote dangerous traits. As presented at the Best Friends Conference in 2011 by Cathy Rosenthal:

    “The breed popularity among reckless pet owners... increases the use of dogs in negative functions, such as guarding and protection... which increases the media reports about a particular breed... which creates fear in the public... which leads to more media reports (now going national)... which increases the likelihood that more reckless owners will want this breed.”

  10. As stated by the ASPCA, “Along with over-reporting, false reporting is a major contributor to the public relations nightmare currently facing pit bulls. There is an emerging tendency for all short-haired, stocky dogs to be called pit bulls—and when a dangerous dog’s breed is unknown, the media is not above assuming that the dog involved must have been a pit bull.”
  11. We recognize that although there are some pit bulls who, through irresponsible breeding and/or mistreatment, may not be safe to have in the community, there are many more who are devoted, affectionate dogs who win our hearts everyday.
  12. According to a report by the Canine Research Council, “there is no scientific evidence that one kind of dog is more likely to injure a person than another kind of dog and BSL’s (breed specific legislation) documented record is one of ineffectiveness.”
  13. When the American Temperament Testing Society (ATTS) tests hundreds of dog breeds, 85% - 87% of American pit bull terriers and and American Staffordshire terriers consistently achieve a passing rate. This is as good as or better than many other popular dog breeds and better than the average rate of 83%.
  14. Our goal is for all the pit bulls we adopt out to be breed ambassadors. We want to place them in loving homes where they’ll be well cared for and we try to provide people with the tools they need to prevent any issues from arising. This includes a “meet and greet” with all current resident dogs in an adopter’s home and training requirements for dogs who need to learn basic skills. All dogs are spayed or neutered as a requirement for adoption.
  15. For more information about pit bulls, please see the following links: